Acetylcholine plays different roles, depending on the target. It is one of the many neurotransmitters in the autonomic nervous system and it also plays a role in the somatic nervous system by sending signals to muscles. It functions ununusually in that it slows down cardiac muscle by acting as an inhibitor, yet with any skeletal muscle, the release of acetylcholine speeds up their rate of contraction by exciting it.
Adenosine is a very important neurotransmitter, because it serves two key biochemical functions within the body. When it comes to our sleep and arousal, it acts either as an inhibitor or stimulator, in that it suppresses the state of arousal and promotes the feeling of wanting to sleep. Additionally, adenosine is the key component of our major source of energy, ATP or adenosine tri-phosphate, which is created through the breaking down of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the citric acid cycle. If you’re interested, you can look it up, but it’s a very complex process, so I won’t go into it here (to give you an idea, I didn’t have to learn it in Biochemistry 301/401 in uni, only the start and end). Adenosine is also present within the breakdown products of ATP, which are ADP (adenosine di-phosphate) and cAMP (cyclic adenosine mono-phosphate).
Anandamide is a cannabinoid. Does that word sound familiar to you? You may know the term cannabinoid from this plant…
Cannabinoid is the term used to describe a neurotransmitter that gives you a feeling of euphoria or a ‘high’. It can also be hallucinogenic in nature. Illegal drugs such as marijiuna (which is shown here) give off these sensations in very high doses due to the cannabinoid THC. This plant is rather controversial because it can be given in therapeutic quantities to help ease pain whilst an injury is healing, but the line between medicinal use and recreational use is often blurry.
Anandamine also plays a role in the regulation of when and how much we eat, and it also is responsible for the feelings of motivation and pleasure that we sometimes feel.
Recognize this pill?
It is one of the most famous in the world, and this little blue pill contains ingredients that mimic the effects of nitric oxide, but make the effects more pronounced.
In essence, what is does is it helps dilate blood vessels very quickly, and helps keep it there for longer than nitric oxide, as nitric oxide only has a half life of a few minutes.